Paper Towels and Secret Codes

I’d worked all day. Tired I walked casually into the house. Slung my coat over the dining room chair. The house smelled good. Sweet like chocolate. My daughter greeted me happily. Two grandchildren in tow.

The kitchen was a disaster. My oldest granddaughter four years old grinned ear to ear. Cake batter smeared all over the lower part of her face. I pulled paper towels from the dispenser. Got it wet and wiped her face clean.

She hugged me with her chocolate stained hands before I’d been able to wipe them clean. I had to laugh. “Why?” Was there some secret code to punk grandma, I wondered.

I cleaned her up, lifted her up onto my lap and tickled her. My daughter sat down next to me. Now looking at her I sensed she wasn’t happy. “What’s wrong?” I asked.

“I don’t…I can’t talk about it” she responded.

I got up, grabbed a washcloth and wiped the countertop. The timer beeped. My daughter jumped up, pulled a cake from the oven and placed it gingerly onto a hot matt.

“What a nice surprise,” I said, trying to sound cheerful. “Did you come by to make a cake for Dad?”

“Yes, he’s so good to…Mom, can I borrow $500? I need to make a car payment.” She asked.

I grabbed my checkbook and started to write a check as my daughter burst into tears. “I’m sorry,” she said as she grabbed a sheet of paper towel and wiped her face. “He’s drinking again.” She added.

I looked at her sweet face. She was 23 years old now, dark brown hair and brown eyes. So mature for her age. I wished I could tell her it would be okay, but I knew better.